We are a little late here at MotorCult with the news of Jed Copham’s passing while in Florida. While most outlets are reporting it simply as news, I was looking for the right words to say about him. The details of the incident are all over the news right now, I don’t want to concentrate on that. Rather, I want to concentrate on Jed as a person. It’s hard to describe a person who has had such an impact on the community here in Minnesota, not all of us knew him personally but we have all been affected by him.
For us in the car community, and more directly the Minnesota car community, this is a little more personal. Jed and his family have been the owners of Brainerd International Raceway since they purchased it in 2006 from Michigan based Sports Resorts International. Throughout their years of ownership the Copham’s opened up BIR’s doors to grassroots racing with events such as Proving Grounds, Chump Car and Wednesday Night Street Drags.
Jed started out as a race car driver and never lost sight of his roots, it was an absolutely wonderful thing. It was directly because of Jed that many of us in Minnesota got our first chance to take a car out on an actual race track. Without the Copham’s keeping the doors of BIR open to us, many of us would not have had the chance to expand beyond racing video games and street racing.
The Copham’s have done a beautiful job not only preserving Brainerd International Speedway but improving it in a way that only a fellow car enthusiast and racer could do. Jed was responsible for separating the drag strip from the road course so simultaneous use was possible. You could feel the special care that the Copham’s took with BIR, to many it was a home away from home. Paul Newman once said that BIR was his favorite racetrack and, although that was before the Copham’s took over ownership, their care made it easy to say that it is our favorite too.
The difference between BIR and most other race tracks came from Jed and his outlook. He wasn’t the kind of track owner who would sit in an office counting admission money but rather was the kind of person to wander the crowds and racers making sure everyone was having a good time. He would be helping wherever he could and having a great time doing so.
After the 2015 storm that destroyed half of the bleachers at BIR and ripped roofs off of buildings, Jed put out a call for volunteers to come help clean up the track prior to NHRA Nationals. Due to the love and support of the community they were able to get the track back to functional use within a month, just in time for NHRA Nationals 2015.
Jed leaves behind his wife, Kristi, two children, his parents and throngs of beloved friends. For Jed’s family, our hearts go out to them. I hope that they know that they are not alone and that everyone in the Minnesota car community is there for them.
The Copham’s have given the Minnesota car community a common place for us to not only race but to strengthen friendships and forge new ones. Jed’s affect on our community could not possibly be overstated. For that, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to Jed and his family for opening their doors up to us. Jed Copham will be missed by all of us but we should be happy that our lives were graced by such a wonderful person.